I got up early and went to breakfast in the David dwelling. Breakfast consisted of first-rate coffee, four varieties of crusty bread and a couple of croissants, salt-free butter, various conserves, most of which were made from or contained kiwis, yoghurt and a bowl of fresh kiwis. I met the farmer Monsieur David, the kiwi specialist who showed an almost childlike pride in his product, insisting that I visit his kiwi fields before leaving the area. The Davids are a thoroughly decent and likeable couple and their establishment which is less than half a mile from the canal [bookable at: http://www.rando-accueil.com/] has my unreserved recommendation.
The day was fairly gloomy and uncertain-looking. But at least it wasn’t raining heavily. The light drizzle came and went as I began the last bit of the tow-path along the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance to Rennes.
The previous day’s rain had not only waterlogged the grit of the cycle-track’s surface, but also loaded every overhanging branch and clump of grass with gallons of water. Even though the rain stopped completely at around ten o’clock, I nevertheless got soaked again from puddles and downpours from the vegetation. I arrived in Rennes at around 10.30 am and had a look around.
Although the Rando-Breizh website shows a cycle-track going all the way from St Malo to Arzal on the southern coast of Brittany without a break, [see: ttp://www.randobreizh.org/VeloroutesVoiesVertesBretagneCarteReseau.php ] I had been warned by a comment on the AF3V website [http://www.af3v.org/] to expect difficulties on leaving Rennes. Moreover, the website that features the cycle-track along the river Vilaine [ http://www.tourisme-pays-redon.com/fr/itineraires-randonnees-pedestres-redon-bretagne/randonnees-vallee-vilaine-redon-bretagne-sud.html ] shows the thing beginning at Pont-Réan. Taking these things into consideration and since the sky was starting to look threatening again, I jumped on a local commuter train and took a short ride to just beyond the southern suburbs of Rennes. I picked up the chemin de halage that runs along the river Vilaine just south of Bruz. That was where I began the second leg of my trip proper to the second chambres d’hôte located on the edge of the Gannedel marsh north of Redon.
The weather perked up almost as soon as I started riding and it was soon warm and sunny. I stopped just south of Pléchatel for lunch and was told by an old chap fishing there that I could easily have followed the tow-path all the way from the centre of Rennes. Moreover, the AF3V site also indicates the existence of this path from the centre of Rennes [see: http://www.af3v.org/-Fiche-VVV-.html?voie=284#] but I’d missed this particular bit of information. Anyway, I’d dried out almost completely on the train, so I didn’t regret taking it. Nor did I regret missing the struggle through the morning traffic south of the city, for that is what I would have done had I not taken the train.
The ride from that point on was a real pleasure, passing through some very beautiful scenery. Sometimes a bit of road follows the river for a good few kilometres and presents an alternative to the surface of the tow-path.
The journey from Pléchatel to Messac and Guipry and from there to Langon went off without a hitch in bright sunshine. The only obstacle on the tow-path was a group of about fifty school children all wobbling uncertainly and shrieking with excitement as they made their way along the river under the rather careless supervision of a couple of put-upon teachers. I seized the opportunity presented by a piece of road parallel to the river to overtake them. Otherwise I think I would have spent a long time gasping with impatience and trying in vain to get past.
I arrived at the exit-point from the tow-path that the proprietor of that evening’s chambres d’hôte had indicated in her directions, but a passing horseman advised me to carry on a bit further in order to avoid the hill rising from the river bank at Trégut. I followed his advice and arrived in the village of Gannedel, on the edge of the Gannedel marsh at around 6.00 pm.
The accommodation, ‘L’Hôt’Berge‘, was in an old Breton property that had been the home of Madame Guémené’s grand-parents. [ see: http://www.gannedel.fr/ ] At that time it had been a fairly primitive sort of house the upper floor of which was reached by an external ladder. Madame Guémené had completely transformed the place, into a sort of showpiece of eco-friendly restoration with bare wood and lime and straw render everywhere. The guest-rooms, however, were far from spartan as such an arrangement might lead one to expect. Surprisingly they were decorated according to various themes associated with various types of boat. I was given the felucca room with its Egyptian décor.
As the only guest in the establishment, I was received with some generosity if not extravagance. Dinner was provided here and after sampling a local apéritif based on honey and quince I was served toasted chèvre on pain d’épices and green salad, followed by a magnificent fish couscous. Various Breton cheeses appeared and then fresh garden strawberries and cream to finish off. Madame Guémené joined me for dinner and told me the history of her property. The place is slightly more pricey than the previous night’s accommodation, but the food was excellent and the company (Monsieur, a local GP joined us later) quite entertaining.
I spent an excellent night in the Egyptian room and Madame Guémené’s advice for the continuation of my trip beyond Redon was to prove invaluable, as was her abundant packed lunch, containing, as she said lots of sucres lents for the restoration of flagging muscles. Again, I have no hesitation at all in recommending ‘L’Hôt’Berge‘ to anyone planning to cycle along the tow-path of la Vilaine.